On the corner of highway M and highway PD, there is a house of pale blue boards. It sits beside the daily commute in and out of the city with a quiet kind of curiosity, watching, as a child would watch, the bustle of the young and talented. It listens to the roar of engines turning from the tamed, 35 mph M to the roaring 55 mph PD and waits until the cars return in the evening, slowing down reluctantly as the sun falls behind the hills. With lace curtains drawn over its eyes, the house gazes at us, heavy-lidded, its mouth pursed into a seasonal garland on the door.
There must be an hour of the day when the highways stretch and yawn, when the asphalt glows warm with sunshine and the heat is carried away by the wind. Every once in a while a dentist appointment or a call from a sick child beckons a car to the corner, where the house watches. The light holds the car still for only a second, then it zips away.
It’s dark in the morning and it’s dark in the evening. The house doesn’t glow from within, but without. Its door is lit all hours of the night by headlights. Company is crossing the threshold at all hours, company of light that reaches in elongated shapes and lingers for as long as it takes a car to drive past at 35 mph. The house is always full of thoughts tossed carelessly out like cigarettes from the Toyotas that pass by. Thoughts that drop and bounce from the commuters, slowing down or revving up as they turn the corner.
Because it watches, the house knows when the silver sentra is late. It hears the strange click in the engine that wasn’t there on Friday. It gauges the temperature by how much frost is left over on the windshield. It understands time by measuring the steam rising from the half-gulped coffee cup. You’re three gulps late today, silver sentra.
There is a chimney at the roof of the house that never smokes. The doors are painted on. A net covers the insulated porch and only lets in the tiniest insects. The residents of the house are all particles: dust, flees, light. Maybe a ghost or two, but they’re quiet ghosts, and not much good for company.
When the day has been dull, and there are no phone calls or noisy thoughts, sometimes the silver sentra slows down as it passes. Sometimes it hesitates at the light, so long that maybe it stalled. Maybe it’s stuck there forever, just like the house. Together they could watch all the other cars drive by. One day, maybe, it will stop passing through like the lights on the floor and maybe it will park.
I can smell the trees when I hesitate at the streetlight. I can feel the splinters in my palm as I imagine walking up the steps to the painted-on door. When I don’t have a job to return to, when I don’t have a friend to meet or a chore to perform. When I’ve silenced the whole rest of the universe just so I can listen for footsteps outside the screened porch. When thick, cold raindrops fall on my head as I sit and wait for the ghosts to welcome me in.
We both wait, together, the house and I, for the day I’ll pull my silver sentra over to the side of highway M and let the engine cool. When I open the car door and examine the dark brown soil that creeps up to the asphalt. When I stand at the foot of the peeling staircase. When the painted on door cracks open.